It’s been a few years since I got to do any live event coverage in New York City, so when a friend of mine got me tickets to 100% Electronicon, I was overjoyed to go drown in vaporwave for a day and tell you all about it!
Before hopping into the actual festival coverage, I thought you might want to know about who and where hosted the event, in case you need to pad you music library or plan your next wild warehouse party.
100% Electronica is a netlabel run by George Clanton, whose many aliases combine with folks all over the world (and one guy who I shared a music history class with at VCU in Richmond, VA – small world) to make up the label’s roster. It remains one of the best places to go for vaporwave on Bandcamp, whether you want more melodic, dreamy music or grindy, disjointed samples. Several of the artists featured both on 100% Electronica – and the festival it has now spawned – have been featured on Business Casual, which I have spoken of in the past.
Elsewhere is a warehouse venue in Brooklyn, New York. It features a fabulous rooftop stage, mainstage, and side stage. There are also multiple bars – one of which served drinks in coconuts branded with Elsewhere’s logo, another which served grilled cheeses alongside specialty cocktails – ample outside chill room, and gender neutral bathrooms. I’d be hard pressed to say I’ve ever been to a venue more well suited to having a bunch of strange people hang out for literally 12 hours straight and jam.
“I can’t believe THIS many people showed up for a vaporwave show,” I heard someone remark as I was in line. I got to the venue 10 minutes before doors were supposed to open. The line was almost wrapped around an entire New York city block. I agreed with my fellow linegoer. It was nice to know I was in the right place though – rarely do I see so many people dressed as I often do: in garish designs, clothes loud enough to deafen. After what seemed like an eternity, I made my way in to the venue, where I was handed an honest to goodness mixtape on a casette holding songs from all the performers at the show (and which you can get most of streamed directly to you on Spotify). The decor was everything I could have hoped for – massive disco balls dominated the ceiling as well as a net full of inflatable aliens – and the music was already bumping. An installation sat to one side, a stack of monitors and TVs all looping clips and static. People were buying Arizona green tea and/or retro-inspired anime girl waifu shirts from Vapor95 (yes, you bet your ass I got a shirt). Between the lack of cell phone service and the surplus of æｓｔｈｅｔｉｃ clothing and visuals, I felt untethered both from the world and from the passage of time, as though I was in some strange liminal space where the one could only experience the echoes of the real world as they passed through space.
Special shoutout to the attention all the performers gave to their visuals. Between Negative Gemini’s custom lyrics visuals for several of her songs to George Clanton’s light grid, to the many rooftop performers who let the city be their visual accompaniment like 4’33” for your eyes, to the cramped performance space of Zone 1 (which felt more reminiscent of many of the chiptune shows I’ve been to than anything else), it really felt like all the performers cared about creating the proper ambiance for their music. And it makes sense – for a music genre which is so heavily focused on samples, unless your performance has a live aspect to it (and several people did include live vocals, drums, and/or guitar) a poor stage presence can really kill an act. Nobody at 100% Electronicon had any issue with their stage presence, I can tell you.
The music itself was split between three stages, each with sets of 60 minutes starting on 20 minute delays – which meant that there was not only constantly music playing, but usually different flavors of music happening at the same time. So, if a certain artist on the (very extensive) lineup didn’t appeal to you, you weren’t trapped staring forlornly at the merch table for an hour. And oh what a variety there was – you had the glitchy atmospheric work of R23X up alongside the mallsoft vibes of FM Skyline. There was the videogame inspired Equip playing against the emotional dream pop of Negative Gemini and the dancier club energy of George Clanton.
What really stole the evening, though, was the triumphant return of Saint Pepsi. I legitimately couldn’t tell who was happier – the crowd, singing along to cut and mashed samples from a man who, in his own words, “slowed some music down and called [him]self an artist” or the man himself who brought his parents out for the show. There was a pure joy in the air which was palpable. By the time Saint Pepsi took the stage, everyone in the venue was at the main stage and I can honestly say I cannot remember a crowd more positive and happy than during that hour. If I could bottle that experience and drink it, it would be the only thing I drank for the rest of my life.
But hey, don’t feel too bad if you couldn’t make it – because 100% Electronicon 2 has already been announced! It’s going to be in LA in October of this year! Get on it! And to George Clanton and the rest of the folks involved in pulling this off – thank you. Thank you so much for an overwhelming evening that I hope we’ll all look back on as fondly as we look on the media you pull the samples for your music from.